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Behind Enemy Lines | Derby County

The Lions take on The Rams...

23 February 2022

Steve Nicholson, Football Editor and Chief Football Writer covering Derby County for the Derby Telegraph and DerbyshireLive, has his say on tonight's opponents…

The Rams have been docked a total of 21 points this season, however, they continue to fight against the threat of relegation. 

“It has been incredible. When they were deducted those points most people wrote off their chances of survival in The Championship. No team has survived following a 12-point deduction, let alone 21.

“The response of Wayne Rooney, the team and the fans has been incredible. They’re putting up a real fight. There’s a long way to go still. They grabbed a late winner at the weekend, but Reading were also victorious. The key is to concentrate on Derby’s results and remain positive.

“The atmosphere at Pride Park is as good as it has been for years. I’ve been at Derby since 1985 and the bond between the fans and the team is pushing them on. It’s incredible at the moment.”

England's all time record goalscorer, Wayne Rooney, is the man who faces the task of guiding Derby to safety. 

“Rooney drives a lot of people. He has developed in the past year. He is very calm and gets his message across. He demands an awful lot of the players, but also understands the pressure players are under. There’s a real understanding there. He’s fiercely determined to be a success as a manager.”

The Rams were victorious last time out against The Posh thanks to a stoppage time strike from substitute Louie Sibley.

“It was huge. The feeling and atmosphere at the end of the game was terrific. There’s a real belief that Derby can get out of this. As I say, there’s a long way to go. There will be twists and turns - lots of them before the end of the season.

“They’re fighting. Like at any club – if fans see their team battling and working hard, they get right behind them. That is exactly what has happened at Derby.

“Louie Sibley scored the winning goal from the bench. There’s a real feeling of togetherness. It’s sort of a siege mentality in adversity because all the issues off the pitch. That togetherness will be crucial in the run-in.”

Captain Tom Lawrence will miss the match after picking up a red card against Peterborough United.

“Lawrence is the skipper and the leading scorer this season. He has been a key player and it was a silly red card. They’ll miss him for three-matches, which is a blow, particularly given how slim the squad is anyway.

“Krystian Bielik the Polish international has been out for a year with a serious knee injury. He’s starting to find his feet and get involved. He was a key player before getting injured. I think he can be a key player again. He’s certainly one to look out for.

“A lot of the young players have done very well in a difficult situation. Max Bird and Jason Knight work their socks off. Max is calm on the ball and Jason has been linked with a number of clubs in the previous transfer window – he never stops working. It’s an important combination in the middle of the pitch for Derby.”

Scott Malone levelled the score against Derby earlier in the season, in a game that finished 1-1 at The Den.

“I worked with Gary Rowett when he was here and I’m sure he will have a game plan. Millwall are in good form and have done well recently at Pride Park. Their record is impressive. They’ve made it difficult for Derby in previous visits. Every game in The Championship is tough. I expect Millwall to come here and scrap for points just like Derby.

“I expect a tight game, but at the minute, Derby’s home form is good. They’ve won five of the last six at home. They’re strong at Pride Park. Playing at home is crucial for them, so, I’m going for a narrow home win.”

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